Saturday, 26 July 2014

Out from Achnahaird

 A few more pictures of the last day in the North West Highlands.
It got so hot we called it a day early.
At Garvie Bay.

Leaving Garvie Bay - perfect location for rolling...
Mountain backdrop.

Mobbed by a pair of aggressive oystercatchers.

Loch Garvie

cooling off

Journey's end
What a great paddle!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Summer Isles sunshine.

Towards Tanera Mor
 We set off for Tanera Mor and Tanera Beg on an amazingly glassy sea.
on the way out... Tanera Mor behind me.

Approaching the Post Office
Arriving at the Post Office we sent the obligatory post card with the unique Summer Isles stamp before escaping the crowd disembarking from the Summer Queen. Passing the 5 enormous salmon cages as quickly as possible, we set off round Tanera Mor in a clockwise direction and landed on a pebbly beach for lunch.

We know kayakers stop here as we found a copy of the Pesda Press Scottish Sea Kayaking book submerged in the shallows.
Perhaps someone looking for directions to the famous arch on Tanera Beg.

 At Tanera Beg we posed for the obligatory 'arch photo'. There was a charming symmetrical quality about this arch which made it seem as if it had been built for a film set.
After a quick chat with a German family out paddling in their kayaks we moved on at a leisurely pace through the series of small islets that lie between the two larger islands.
'they're behind you...'

We spend a while letting the local youths play a game of 'chicken' with us.
Some of them got pretty close...

Returning to Achiltibuie with Stac Pollaidh and Ben More Coigach in the distance.
 Once out of the islands we were again aware of the mountains, dramatically dominating the landscape.
Back at Badentarbet
A very relaxing paddle - soaking up the scenery.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Reiff and Isle Ristol

Overlooking the Summer Isles.
A window of lovely weather out on the west coast of mainland Scotland beckoned, so we packed the van and headed sooth on the first available ferry, hopeful of warmer temperatures and sunshine in Wester Ross.

Base camp was at Port A Baigh, Altandhu across from Isle Ristol.

Advance landing party at the beach on Isle Ristol.
The following day we crossed to Isle Ristol with Anne, another visiting paddler we met at the campsite. 

From there on to Reiff  for lunch.

Rockpools at Reiff.
View back to Isle Ristol from the picnic spot.
The wind calmed, the clapotis subsided, and we had a very pleasant return journey.

Anne with Mr Mackayak.
We rounded the island, and my focus was drawn again to the mountainous skyline of Assynt and Coigach - dramatically different to Orkney.

The view of Loch an Alltain Duibh between Altandhu and Isle Ristol.
Isle Ristol once was a herring fishery base like many of the islands in this part of the world. Now it is a Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve with important wildflowers growing in the machair.

Return to camp.
A very pleasant paddle - thanks to Anne for the added company and conversation.
We knew the forecast was set to improve... and it did!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Kayak Ways Intensive 2014

Setting off for the ferry sooth I got incorporated into the Commonwealth Games baton proceedings, as it headed to the same boat. Much later I was free of the various and many vehicles of the baton 'crew' and police escort which had accompanied me across the Firth and throughout the north of Scotland. The temperature warmed up significantly and I went through the ritual of stopping at Inverness to cast my Orkney summer layers. Much, much later I arrived in leafy Argyll and met up with lovely organisers and hosts, Pam and Alan Forsyth and Julia Darby, and our amazing mentors Cheri and Turner.

Both days were held at Ardentinny, where the customary cluster of kayak carrying cars conglomerated. The weekend's sessions were all about rolling for me and it was great to work through the fundamentals for all rolls and forward finishing rolls in particular. 

Rhiannon focuses on her hip.

Land drills are extra helpful in putting together the movements which go on inside the kayak with the timings of what you can see happening above the deck.

Cheri demonstrates finishing forward - flat shoulders/face down.
Cheri and Turner demonstrated  and talked throughthe importance of body position and the timing of the movements we had practised in relation to each other.

The principles of aft finishing rolls.

Then it was my turn to get some feedback on the homework I have been doing since last time... A year is a long time! Plenty of time to consolidate new skills but also unfortunately when you are practising alone, its  plenty of time to develop bad habits. In a short time Cheri had worked out why I was finding some things sticky or difficult, erratic or inconsistent and got me practising specific sequences to sort it all out! What a difference. Its the magic of Greenland rolling - when you do it properly it feels effortless.

my turn!
Rhiannon's reverse sweep.
Needless to say there was an awful lot to remember after one day of rolling. As usual I felt like I would not be able to remember it all... but after sleeping on the new learning day 2 dawned sunny and positive and we revisited my 'homework' sequence with a great drill, flipping from sculling for support palm up, to chest sculling moving the kayak and your body lower and higher. This movement doesn't mean a lot if like me you are used to just floating face down and mostly prying to finish forward, but once I got the hang of it I knew it would become part of my regular practice routine.

Class in session.
This photo of Alan's kind of sums up the weekend!

photo: Alan Forsyth

A brilliant learning experience shared with old and new tuiliq wearing friends.
Its hard to sum up the significance of the Kayak Ways Intensive experience but if you get the opportunity to find out for yourself - take it!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

A quick session at Scapa

This week I am preparing to set off sooth to meet up with some of the lovely people I have met through paddling ‘traditional style’ at the Kayak Ways sessions at Loch Eck in Argyll. These trips away are about much more than learning new things - catching up with the group of friends I have made through Greenland paddling is one of the high points of the year.

As usual and as far as I know, I am the only person who currently paddles and rolls with a stick, or ‘stick-person’, here in Orkney though I am ever hopeful that someone may join me… The closest kindred ‘stick- people’ are in Shetland (maybe time to have an Orkney and Shetland Traditional Paddlers’ event?).

With my new Canadian paddles from Joe O Blenis, Orkney Greenland Kayaking Club went out to Scapa for a quick practice session in the company of regular OGKC attendees - the dunters (eider ducks) and the occasional selkie (seal). Although our capsize and recovery methods are different we all have to come up for air - some of us sooner than others.

Life and weather dictate how much I prepare before heading off each year. I feel I should advance my skills as much as possible so that I don’t go over old ground with Cheri and Turner, but instead learn new things and take home ‘fresh’ homework.  The reality is though that I often do my best rolling at the beginning of a session after a break from practising for a while, and when I’m not taking it too seriously…